Kitchener, Ontario (TFC) – There was one night I stayed at his mother’s house, early on in our relationship. We had had a little to drink and I wanted to have sex; this would have been my first time experiencing PIV (penis in vagina). That night he told me that I wasn’t ready, and I was confused. He had already implored me to do this and that and I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Isn’t this and that what couples did together? What about the other thing? I wanted the other thing! So, young as I was, I thought I was ready for the other thing. What we had done prior certainly led me to think I was ready. Regardless, his no was enough for me and I didn’t push it. Flash forward to I don’t know how many weeks or months later and to another night that I had wanted to become intimate. This was well after we had become “sexually active,” (why I use quotes will, hopefully, become apparent soon). No, not tonight, he was too tired. Again, his words were enough to stop anything that may have happened. I respected his boundaries, we fell asleep and that was it. These two memories became central to my unraveling of what he was doing to me. And what was he doing to me?
Well, as he explained to me, this, that, and the other thing is how I show I love him. Before I knew what I was doing, he moved me to perform this and that; my hands, my mouth, my body but a tool used for his pleasure. This was nothing out of my ordinary as I had become accustomed to being told what to do. School conditioned me to accept facts without question. How I reacted to the abusive friendship I was in as a child started me down a path where my own boundaries were unrecognizable. Was this me, myself, who took the first step down this trail? Was it willing, the pace I was taking? Was it even me walking? Myself being not really me; more a reality I had to integrate as part of the person I was becoming. A reality I lived, whether I liked it or not. A reality that included a lot of this, that and the other thing at his want.
I didn’t think to ask myself these questions until it was far, far too late.
Classic to post-traumatic memory, I only remember bits and pieces of the first few times of this, that, and the other thing. Yes I remember movement and I remember pain. I remember blood (on more than one occasion of PIV), but not bond. I remember feeling full (always), but not whole. And although I cannot remember the first time I had “sex,” I can clearly recall the next day feeling… different. Why? Well he had previously told me that womyn who have had sex walk differently than womyn who haven’t. He could tell a virgin just by her stride! He knew so much about sex! I had no reason not to believe him so of course I was hyper-aware of my own walk. Of the path I was being taken on. Sometimes I will flashback to an early morning between rows of lockers, wondering to myself if my legs moved today different than the last. As I walked to my first class that day, I felt I had a secret to keep. And for long it was a secret. My parents didn’t know, his parents didn’t have to know. I felt special with our secret and it was months before I started to wonder. Ignorance is bliss and I was in deep.
I was in so deep and with that deep brought feelings to what I experienced with Sam. He reminded me of the happy ending her and I envisioned. Like her, he was in control of the relationship. Like her, he knew what to say to get what he wanted. Like her, he told me what to do and I did it. Like her, he became central to who I realistically thought was myself. Like her, he became a large part of my identity. Sure, there was questionable situations (for one, I self-harmed and he didn’t really care). Sure, sometimes this, that, and the other thing felt like a chore but at least he wanted to do it with me, right? Sure, this and that was always about him (for one, I can count twice he reciprocated this and that was usually a precursor to the other thing), so what?
So what if I lay paranoid at night; at least I had someone to lay paranoid about. So what if I ruminated in my head about him cheating or using me to make one of his girl friends jealous (he had filled me in fully on his previous dating experiences with the womyn in his friend group); at least I had someone interested in me? So what if sometimes he made me feel nervous; at least he made me feel? Oh and did he ever make me feel. He invoked feelings of ever after, like that I felt with Sam. I remember thinking it one afternoon, washing dishes at his mother’s house: I thought I was in love. Even better, I was under the impression that this was what I was supposed to do. So much of the media I had absorbed as a child and now a youth idolized the same pattern: Get a boyfriend, do this and that and that other thing, live happily ever after. Girls and women are just close friends, pals, after all.
Deep as I was, I had an inkling that something was off. There was something there and for months I internally struggled to figure that something out. I can’t quite pinpoint where I started to become wary of him. I can’t exactly say when I began to deconstruct the foundation upon which our relationship was built. I clarify because, other than sex, we had little in common. Fifteen year-old me didn’t have many interests. Fifteen year-old me was too depressed, too focused on school and work to indulge myself in myself. His interests became my own and I was fine with that. His friends became mine and I was fine with that too. Little did I know that my lack of self was attractive, by virtue of how easy it was for him to mould me into what he wanted. My individual wants and needs were not part of his plan.
I don’t know which came first: my dwindling enthusiasm to be sexual with him or the realization of his mind games. I can’t tell you what started the crack that eventually broke me: my emotional instability or his physical abuse. Either way, I began to slowly question everything about our relationship: What was the meaning of his hesitance to have sex with me that one night, yet his almost daily want for me to pleasure him? I remember my almost immediate recognition of his boundaries… did I also have boundaries? Would I receive the same response should I say no? Should I receive the same response? Should I say no? Could I say no? The echoes of my no’s unheard so many years ago were internalized at this point, and as our relationship progressed I became less and less sure of my own ability to even speak the word.
Oh and how the questions piled. We would wrestle in the living room. Why did he so enjoy this? Why did he always win? He would want to meet late at night and walking home after our “encounters,” I found myself increasingly frustrated with him. Why he would he grab my arms, throw me to the ground, and pin me when I made to slap at him; yet with him being twice my size he could have just as easily held me back? Yes, I know it was wrong of me to do so and I have never been such a way towards anyone since and still: why oh why would he bruise me and then kiss me goodnight afterwards, as if nothing had happened? Why did he move me like so? Further, why did I have this feeling that this, that, and the other thing was only for him? Why did he know so much about sex when he told me he was a virgin? Why did he ask me to do things, things I couldn’t dream of doing? The questions mounted until they were all I could think about. Why, why, why?
I knew he could pin me with one hand behind his back so when I tested him I went limp. Tested him? Well, as I was questioning what was going on there was a time I was fairly sure of what was happening. I say fairly sure because, as rape culture teaches us otherwise, it isn’t always so clear. So I did what I knew best: I led him on. I knew this best from sexualized mass media. I knew this well from past abuse. I just knew. So I acted what I thought to be sexy and then stopped dead in my own tracks. I led him on and still to this day I struggle not to blame myself. I can convince myself that what had happened didn’t, that what I did was wrong. I can work though my head that I hurt him, and not the other way around. This is the mind of someone so hurt they don’t know reality when he is fucking them senseless. It took me years to come out and tell someone.
I remember this vividly because this is the one time that I can allow myself to acknowledge, without a doubt, that he raped me. After seeing to my part, I let him do his. I didn’t dare fight him off for fear of it escalating. Plus, I wanted to know for sure. Because I knew what he could do: he could have listened when I said no. And although my no’s were soft, I knew they were heard. Because he responded to them. Come on!
No. Just a little? No. I won’t move. No. Just let me inside! He could have realized that I lay there, lifeless. He could have stopped. His body on top of mine, I didn’t move. I couldn’t. He begged and pleaded. He bargained and complained. I gave him nothing and he took a mile. He moved me as he had done so many times before. I stared at the ceiling. We were in his garage. It was after school. I was still in uniform. I remember thinking, well, this is it. And that was it.
Afterwards, he asked if I was okay. He asked if I was okay. With all he had done and all he didn’t do, he actually asked. If. I. Was. Okay. As if he cared. As if he cared to pretend to care. I knew he was still playing the part and you know what? So did I. I mumbled something and he left the garage to put a snack in the oven. I can’t remember what I thought, anymore. I must have started the double-thinking in my head even then. I went to slap him, so I deserve to be bruised. I led him on, so I am to blame. I started it, so what happened was my fault. And so on. I promptly blocked out that day and continued on with my life. I stayed with him and within the year he dumped me. He’s now a university graduate with a successful career and an engagement, from what the grapevine tells me. I’m now struggling to feed myself and maintain a lifestyle that involves self-care, rather than self-destruction. To quote one of my favourite authors, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., “So it goes.”
I was fifteen years old. This is the path that took me. Writing out my truth is now the path I choose to take.